Pandemic pivot for pediatric clinical rotations recognized with national award

Tamara Vineberg - 20 November 2020

Karen Forbes ensured that medical students had the opportunity to learn about pediatrics after the pandemic forced clinical rotations to be cancelled.
Karen Forbes was one of two department members recognized with Pediatric Chairs of Canada COVID-19 Leadership Awards for their ingenuity during the pandemic.

Forbes lobbied the dean’s office to continue students’ learning experiences after they had to remove pediatric learners from clinical rotations. Within a few weeks, she created an online Pediatric Bootcamp, which involved a new virtual curriculum, mobilized teachers, and ensured ways for interactive learning. She is the director of Pediatric Undergraduate Medical Education.

Read the Q & A with Forbes:

Why did you develop the Pediatric Bootcamp?

I wanted to ensure that the undergraduate students had an excellent learning experience despite being unable to learn in a clinical setting. The bootcamp provided students with teaching that is typically provided throughout the pediatric clerkship academic days, in a consolidated experience ahead of time. This was important because we knew that once students could return to their clerkship, their rotations would be shortened from eight to six weeks. Doing the bootcamp allowed us to minimize time away for academic teaching during the revised rotation structure and focus on the clinical experiences that are the cornerstone of clerkship.

What did the bootcamp involve for the learners?

Students attended 14 half-days of virtual teaching sessions, which were interactive in some way. This amounted to 49 hours of sessions on core pediatric topics, organized by “themes” for each half-day. All sessions were case-based, and some unique sessions were a team-based learning session, an evidence-based medicine journal club set in “virtual escape rooms”, and a bootcamp challenge game with Kahoot to bring things together at the end.

What types of logistics did you have to consider organizing the bootcamp?

Thirty-five faculty members, fellows, and senior residents were mobilized to teach sessions and moderate the chat box during others’ sessions. Those moderating the chat would answer questions posed by the learners in actual time so the session facilitators could keep on track. All learning resources were combined into a bootcamp manual, including objectives for all sessions, any pre-work or reading required, and an extensive collection of resources and links for students.

What does receiving the COVID Pandemic Leadership Award mean to you?

I am honoured to receive this award but feel there are so many others who deserve credit. The bootcamp resulted from the efforts of many individuals who worked tirelessly and came together so willingly and quickly for the benefit of the students. I would like to acknowledge the help of faculty members Mel Lewis, Jessica Foulds and Jackie Lee, and two amazing administrators, Patty Wark and Sheri Godreau-Shedek. Without all their help, the bootcamp would not have been possible.

How would you define leadership?

Leadership recognizes a need and stepping up when the need arises. A leader brings people together, embracing the strengths of each individual, and works as part of a team so that everyone achieves more together.

How did the Department of Pediatrics’ partners support you with this initiative?

The MD program leadership supported this initiative; there were many moving parts with clerkships being on hold that we had to work together for all affected students.

Bonita Lee was also recognized with a PCC Pandemic Leadership Award - read about her advocacy for family-centred care here.